New Products and The Export Market
During the 1990s, a new trend emerged in Shantipur and Fulia. Apart from the weaving of traditional Bengal handloom sarees, new products like yardage, scarves and stoles for Export started and the weavers began to understand the tastes and preferences of foreign markets.
A sea-change in colours and weaves
The colours became more muted and the designs understated. Various complex and esoteric weaves which had been abandoned for their complicated techniques and high labour cost were revived as weavers began to get remunerative prices for their products. New experiments were carried out with yarn combinations like silk, wool and cotton. Natural and artificial yarn combinations were also used.
Fulia in fact led the way in the export of high end handloom stoles and scarves. These were exported in large volumes. While the downturn in the economy hit exports to a great extent, production for export is still substantial.
Impact of the new trend on traditional weaving
In recent years a few master weavers have started incorporating this style into weaving Fulia and Shantipur sarees. One can nowadays see muted colours and a variety of textures using different yarn combinations in Shantipur and Fulia sarees.
This has gone down quite well with the urban clientele of Bengal handloom sarees both as daily wear and as formalwear. Initial reaction of individual customers as well as designers and bulk buyers has been very positive, though this is yet to be translated into sales in large volumes.
Fulia and Shantipur are today home to weavers from different economic strata. On the one hand you have the affluent, market savvy weavers who have many looms and a number of weavers working under them.
On the other, you have the self help group members, with few or no assets to their names.
What unites them is their fabulous weaving skill.
The Integrated Handloom Cluster Development Programme promoted by the Ministry of Textiles, Government of India is a great hope for those struggling weavers. With objectives like SHG and Consortium formation, common facility centre, dye house, market exposure and so on, things will definitely look up for the Bengal handloom saree weavers of Shantipur.
If I may add, professional design services are being provided to Shantipur Cluster by yours truly.